3D printing basics – Intro to filaments


I’m Tom and today i’m going to give you a
quick introduction to the common 3D printer filaments.
So what you might already know is that the filament is a 3D printer’s feedstock which
it uses to build the things it makes. All filaments have in common that they are thermoplastics,
which means that the filament softens and eventually melts when it is heated. As opposed
to metals, which have a distinct melting temperature at which they go from solid to liquid, thermoplastics
gradually soften and melt when they are heated up. Which, for 3D printing, means that you
can control the viscosity of the plastic by picking a temperature at which the plastic
is neither too liquid nor too tough. IIt also means that we can’t print metals with our
filament-based printers. And while you could theoretically print almost
any thermoplastic, there are two that are really popular: One is PLA and the other is
ABS. So PLA is the most popular filament at the
moment. It’s a polymer that is made from corn starch and at the same time is biodegradable,
which means that it can be composted under the right circumstances. It’s so popular because,
once you get your printer dialed in, it will give you repeatable results no matter what
you’re trying to print. It also smells nice when printing – it’s kind of a mix between
cotton candy and popcorn. At the same time, it is fairly tolerant about
what machine you print it on – PLA does not need a heated bed for sticking and easily
prints onto unheated blue painter’s tape. If you have a heated bed, you can also print
it onto plain glass, glue-stick- or hairspray-covered glass or Kapton tape. It’s a fairly stiff
plastic and printed parts generally turn out fairly strong.
However, there are a couple of challenges when printing PLA: One of them is that PLA
tends to absorb water from the air, so you’ll need to keep your filament spools in sealed
containers when you’re not using them or bake them in the oven every now and then. The other
is that PLA often doesn’t cool and harden fast enough when printing it. There’s an easy
solution for that, though, and that is having a small fan blowing over the printed part
while it is being printed. Many printers come with a fan pre-installed, so that’s already
accounted for. The last downside to using PLA is that it really isn’t temperature-stable
and will soften and deform at about 50°C. Now, i know that sounds like a lot, but just
leaving a part in your car on a warm day can be enough to have it warping. The other plastic, which is a bit more on
the “traditional” side, is ABS. Usually, when someone mentions ABS for the first time, they’ll
say that ABS is what LEGO are made of. And that’s true, but ABS is simply a very common
plastic and is used in anything from coffee makers to flat screen TVs. When it comes to
3D printing, ABS is often used when the part needs to be tough or temperature-resistant.
ABS has a bit of a wax-like feeling to it, and ínstead of snapping like PLA, it bends
and deforms. It’s also not as stiff as PLA and much more temperature-resistant: It only
softens at about 100°C, which is why parts for a 3D printer are usually printed with
ABS and not with PLA. Now, ABS can be a bit more challenging to
print for one reason, and that is that ABS contracts quite a bit as it cools. Because
of this, larger prints can warp and become unstuck from the bed or the individual layers
of the print can peel apart and weaken the final part. It’s also practically impossible
to print ABS without using a heated bed, but then again, most printers come with one as
a standard option. When you have one, you can print ABS onto Kapton or PET tape or onto
a layer of hairspray or glue stick. So which plastic you choose to print will
depend entirely on what you’re using the 3D printer for: i’m personally mostly printing
in ABS because i use the parts in all sorts of contraptions where i need parts that won’t
deform when they get a bit warm. If you’re going to print light-duty parts or complex
artistic pieces or simply enjoy that feeling that your printer will be able to handle almost
every part you print, then PLA is probably the better choice for you. Now, the world of 3D printer filaments isn’t
just PLA and ABS, there’s now a whole bunch of new and special-purpose plastics, like
Taulman’s all-purpose nylon filaments, super-tough polycarbonate, wood-like laywood or even rubber-like
filaments like Ninjaflex. For getting started, you should stick to PLA or ABS and once you’re
confident with one of those you can move on to the newer materials. Also, buy your filament
from suppliers that have a good reputation and don’t order no-name filament from ebay
if you don’t exactly know what you’re getting into. Especially PLA has huge quality differences
between the cheap and the good stuff. So that’s it for now, as always, thanks for
watching – if you’d like to see more of these kind of videos, consider subscribing to my
channel.

local_offerevent_note September 20, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


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